An author once labeled Christians “Easter people,” and I think it’s appropriate.
We wouldn’t call ourselves “Christmas people” in the same way because Christmas came much later in history and was actually appropriated by the church from paganism. But the early Christians began to celebrate Easter immediately.
The book of Acts records the church meeting for worship eight times on Sunday. The first day of the week came to be called “the Lord’s Day” and was a reminder that Jesus rose on the first day of the week.
Pastors used to point out when they stressed the importance of night church that five of these eight references are to Sunday evening. Our culture has changed somewhat. A recent survey in our area found 60 percent of our churches don’t have corporate worship on Sunday evenings now (although they may have smaller group meetings).
But the real reason for Sunday night prominence in Acts is that Sunday was another workday. Believers had no other time than after work to gather.
To be “Easter people” means we live in hope. Granted, all of us go through periods that seem to be hopeless. What can we say to a person diagnosed with malignancy or to parents whose child has died? At those moments, we need to offer the ministry of presence more than the ministry of theology.
I’ve always believed we should refrain from rote responses in moments of terrible loss.
I remember a sad call I received on a Saturday afternoon long ago. The family summoned me to the hospital after one of our deacons apparently had a heart attack en route to a family wedding. I had only been there a few minutes when the doctor came to the waiting room.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “There was nothing we could do.”
The heart attack had been massive. The deacon’s wife wept. She looked at me and said, “Pastor, if I didn’t have Jesus, I wouldn’t make it.”
What she said was certainly true, though I hope she didn’t feel she was expected to say this because her pastor stood nearby. At that moment, she could have grieved in the presence of family and friends while we said nothing other than “we love you.” Theology and reflection more appropriately come later.
But, on the other hand, I’ve heard countless people months or years after their tragedies tell of God’s faithfulness. They know the truth of Paul’s word that the “God of all comfort” comforts us in affliction and uses us to comfort others in their pain (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Easter reminds us that God was faithful to his Son, and He promises not to abandon his many sons in their trials.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website issiluriabaptist.com.